He was joined by Blossoms, The Courteeners and Peter Kay at the venue's first event since terror attack on May 22
From the Albert Square vigil on 23 May to the One Love Manchester concert on 4 June, the carpet of floral tributes in St Ann’s Square to the swarms who turned out to get a Manchester bee inked on their skin, Mancunians have rallied against terror in their thousands since the tragic arena attack of 22 May.
The Manchester Arena has remained closed ever since, eerily silent after over two decades as one of world’s busiest entertainment venues.
On Saturday night, however, the venue’s reopening proved that Manchester would not yield, it would not be cowed, with 14,000 revellers descending on the Arena for the aptly titled ‘We Are Manchester' benefit concert - with all proceeds going towards a permanent memorial to the victims, overseen by the Manchester Memorial Fund.
Hosted by comedian Russell Kane, the night began with an emotional tribute to the 22 concertgoers killed in May’s attack by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Lord Mayor Eddie Newman. Tony Walsh, aka Longfella Poet, followed with his now iconic ode This is the Place and a ‘minute of noise’ as opposed to the usual minute of silence.
Then came the music, with local DJ Clint Boon kicking off proceedings before popstar Pixie Lott took to the stage to perform hits like Cry and All About Tonight.
The line-up that followed was diverse to say the least. It’s unlikely we’ll see eighties crooner Rick Astley, former Girls Aloud star Nadine Coyle and grime artist Bugzy Malone performing in the same concert again anytime soon. But on this occasion, one of unification and hell-bent on a good time, it became somehow irrelevant.
Unbelievable scenes last night 🐝#wearemanchester #menarena
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Highlights included The Courteeners frontman Liam Fray yelling ‘Manchester, the centre of the universe’ to rapturous applause; The Coral’s Ian Skelly joining Stockport band Blossoms for a rendition of Dreaming of You; a surprise appearance from boxers Ricky Hatton, Anthony Crolla and Hughie Fury; and comedian Peter Kay - who once worked at the arena as a steward - introducing headliner Noel Gallagher as ‘Mr Manchester himself, all the way from London.’
Gallagher’s High Flying Birds closed the show with a mix of their tracks and Oasis classics. Referring to Don’t Look Back in Anger - which has now become a rallying anthem, performed by everyone from Chris Martin and Ariana Grande during One Love to the busker outside We Are Manchester - Gallagher said: “If anyone here ever doubted that Manchester is the greatest city in England… there was a minute’s silence and one girl broke the silence and started to sing and it’s amazing how everyone rallied around that song that I’m about to sing.
“It’s become some kind of anthem of defiance. And every time you sing, we win, so keep on singing.”
For many, it was a particularly emotional night: onsite counselling provided support, and even security guards were in tears. Yet this is Manchester and - as the arena’s sell-out reopening proved more than anything - we keep on singing.
NGHFB We are Manchester. #repost #wearemanchester #nghfb #prox #urbanaudiopro #wigwamacoustics #liveaudio #nomud
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Power dressing with these beautiful ladies last night! 💋💋💋 #WeAreManchester
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Dreaming of you #thecoral #blossoms #wearemanchester
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#wisewords #welovemanchester #manchesterarena #wearemanchester
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Makeup on pixie Lott ✨✨✨#mac#maccosmetics#wearemanchester#pixielott#❤️#events#menarena#makeupbyme#sadafmakeup_3
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#WeAreManchester #thecourteeners @what_liam_saw #notnineteenforever #Manchester #manchesterbands #concert #blossoms #NoelGallaghersHighFlyingBirds
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Blossoms at #WeAreManchester 📷 Manchester Evening News #blossomsband #blossoms
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The Courteeners went off last night! 🎸 One of my favourites #wearemanchester #mancunian #thecourteeners
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So maybe.... #noelgallagher #manchesterarena #wearemanchester
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